Rotterdam Photo: Isaiah Winters
The theme of this year’s Rotterdam Photo, an annual photography festival, was “Freedom Redefined,” and I was lucky enough to exhibit 34 prints from my work on women with life sentences, both inside prison and after they’ve regained their freedom. This week Lenscratch is dedicated to featuring five photographers whose work caught my eye.
Isaiah Winter’s series, “This Land is Your Land,” is a comprehensive multimedia project exploring the history of the U.S. National Park system, challenging the viewer to “question their ideas of land, nostalgia and nationalism.”
This Land Is Your Land
This Land Is Your Land is a multimedia project that explores the history of the U.S. National Park system and the lands upon which they have been created. The work is an examination of recreation upon and the seizure of ancestral Indigenous lands from the perspective of a Black veteran.
In search of healing and contemplation from my time in the U.S. Air Force and a traumatizing close-call from a fellow wingman, I began visiting Glacier National Park in northern Montana in hopes of escape. I felt that I was answering the call to the wild that many naturalists, artists, and writers have answered before me. Beyond the alluring landscapes and solitude that were promised, I found that the influences of imperialism, nationalism and the fetishization of the American outdoors were not unlike conflicts I’d encountered during my time in service.
TLIYL encourages viewers to parse through contrasting materials that paint this area of northern Montana as both intrinsically “American” and intrinsically stolen and Indigenous. Viewers will be encouraged to reconcile their own ideas and emotions regarding American mysticism and the colonialism that permeates all facets of our culture, even those as remote and “untouched” as rural Montana.
Isaiah Winters’ photographic work and experimental films merge the archival or found with the contemporary to comment on nostalgia and indexicality. Through recontextualizing visual media and advertisements he asks that viewer to acknowledge their own biases or learned truths. Popular culture and imagery are crucial to everyday understandings of the World around us. By taking this approach, Winters is able to create associations and assemblages that comment on the medium of photography. Isaiah received his BA in Sociology and MFA from Parsons School of Design in 2022. He is also an Air Force veteran with a background in linguistics and analytics. Winters has exhibited at Rotterdam Photo Festival, Parsons School of Design, Lincoln Center, Pingyao International Photo Festival and Photoville NYC. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, Baltimore Magazine, SNFCC, Parks Project and BmoreArt.
Follow Isaiah Winters on Instagram @isaiahrw
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